Australia’s Cinema Accessibility Issues Challenge Deaf Community

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Australia’s Deaf Community Challenges Hoyts over Cinema Accessibility

In an unparalleled action, the deaf and hard of hearing community in Victoria, Australia has initiated a lawsuit against premier cinema chain, Hoyts. The community argues that most film sessions remain out of their reach due to ongoing problems with the CaptiView closed captioning device.

Problems with CaptiView

Launched in Australia in the year 2009, CaptiView was lauded as a revolution for audience members who are deaf or hard of hearing. However, the device has faced routine scrutiny, with ongoing complaints about technical issues like interference from different theatre signals, eye strain caused by the device, and a constant need for readjustment. Individuals who are hard of hearing, like Philip Waters and Simon Andersson, suggest that the device detracts from their movie-going experience, as malfunctions regularly cause them to miss important aspects of the films.

Claim of Discrimination

The lawsuit invokes the idea that continuous access issues translates to discrimination. The complainants argue that lack of adequate access to the full cinema experience is a violation of equal opportunity legislation in Victoria. The prevailing sentiment within the deaf community asserts that the present cinematic experience is far from inclusive, with the majority of movie screenings either lacking subtitles or deploying flawed closed captioning devices.

Possible Solution with Open Captions

The deaf community is advocating for the widespread implementation of open captions in all film sessions. Such captions, visible directly on the main screen, can be beneficial not only to deaf and hard of hearing audience members, but also to those for whom English is their second language, and neurodivergent individuals. Support for open captions reaches beyond the deaf community – our data suggests that a considerable number of viewers routinely use subtitles during their viewing experience. However, the issue remains contentious, as some moviegoers find them distracting.

This lawsuit reiterates the importance for cinema chains to strike a balance between contending with home entertainment options and providing accessible experiences to all audience members. The case also highlights a wider societal shift towards inclusivity, and changing attitudes towards subtitles in multimedia consumption.


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